FELIX PHILIPP LUTZ
Historical consciousness in unified Germany 13 years after the fall of the German Democratic Republic is undergoing a profound change whose direction is not yet clearly visible. The following describes the status and content of historical consciousness in the period from autumn 1989 until the end of the twentieth century. However, during the 1990s, in the aftermath of unification, and following revolutionary-like changes and adjustments in different fields such as foreign policy and the changing international role of united Germany, a gradual change in political culture is occurring. This change is occurring parallel with the demise of the last generations of Germany who witnessed the Third Reich-either as victims or as perpetrators.
Ambivalent signals indicate change-but in which direction? In a survey comissioned by the weekly magazine Der Spiegel in summer 2001, a representative sample of German people were asked about their knowledge of what had happened on 17 June 1953. Overall, only 43 per cent of all Germans were able to answer correctly. 1 The numbers indicate a loss of knowledge about recent history which is remarkable. Also, differences between East and West Germans are still enormously high with regard to judging the GDR and views of socialism and capitalism. At the same time, numerous discussions about history which focuses on the Nazi past and the recent era of the GDR have been part of the unification debate within the Federal Republic. The former Federal Republic has become the subject of numerous debates concerning the significance and evaluation of particular aspects of its history. These include, for example, the Ostpolitik advocated by Western German political parties and governments, the inner-German policies pursued in the post-war era, and methods of assessing the way in which German citizens have come to terms with the National Socialist past.
The GDR's self-rightous claim that it was an anti-fascist state allowed citizens to avoid an understanding and reconciliation with the National Socialist past. Whereas the Federal Republic claimed to be the legal successor of the German state and the Third Reich, the GDR did not, and thus offered neither moral nor financial compensation. In practical terms,
Felix Philipp Lutz, Schiller International University, Heidelberg